Sparkling white lines and broad swathes of color denoting bike lanes and crosswalks—to us, they are provided to ensure our safety, but so often our horses perceive them as terrifying threats. And those markings that say STOP on the road’s surface as you approach an intersection? On horseback they are just as likely to inspire a sudden and extreme acceleration—in any of many directions.

Whenever we take our horses for a “relaxing and pleasant” hack on a public road, or when and if we simply have to cross a paved street to get to some beacon of fulfillment and excitement on the other side, we confront the possibility that our horses will shy, spook, bolt, snort, balk…or just plain freak. If it’s not Pokémon—or some wayward teen hunting them—it could very well be the change in surface or the markings on the road that inspire such reactions.


“Some new white lines and wording were painted onto the road through our village,” says founder of the International Horse Agility Club and bestselling author Vanessa Bee in her book Over, Under, Through: Obstacle Training for Horses, “and my horse Secret made it quite plain that these brand new sparkling white lines were a definite trap.”

Vanessa turned her experience into a training opportunity, and she now uses basic groundwork to prepare horses for such challenges and ensure her safety—and others—on the road.

Using sawdust or shavings, sprinkle a thin line on the ground. Leading your horse from the ground, walk over it in both directions until it is “no big deal.”


Gradually introduce additional lines of shavings, creating a striped effect. You can even add other shapes on the ground as a further test of your horse’s acceptance of the exercise.

Next, mount up and ride your horse over the lines of shavings. Repeat in both directions until your horse continues forward over and around them willingly, his focus remaining on you and your forward travel.

Now you’re ready to hit the road together!



Adapted from the book “Over, Under, Through: Obstacle Training for Horses” by Vanessa Bee, and used by permission from Trafalgar Square Books.